• It doesn't depend on you and you can't handle everything.

    And besides, you suffer more.

    Love in the 21st century, according to Tamara Tenenbaum

  • Do you suffer from liana syndrome with your partners?

    Maybe you're a love addict



is 38 years old, he is Italian, but he has spent a lifetime in Madrid.

Francesco is a space engineer, he plays sports, he plays in a band, he's tall, he's handsome.

He speaks slowly with soft inflections and at anything but overwhelming volume.

During the conversation, he sometimes takes his time to answer, or questions the questioner, which is me, and suddenly, I see myself inside the story.

Thus, from the outset, it is difficult to imagine that Francesco does not have a partner.

Because he would like it too.

He has had several, lasting between two and three years.

The last one left its mark: «It was not a roll.

On the contrary, he was the love of my life.

I saw myself with her and with churumbeles.

We loved each other very much, we moved in together, it didn't work out.

And... she's done.

I was 34 years old when she finished.

And he did it because it became a very contentious relationship.

In fact, we were always a couple where there was a lot of energy and explosiveness.

Coexistence was not to blame for the rupture, she says;

“We left him, I left him, being very much in love.

And it hurt me a lot and it took me a long time to be emotionally available, a couple of years.

At that time I met several girls with whom, perhaps, if I had met them at another time... But I did not have the oven for buns».

The 'marriage squeeze'

Perhaps, I wonder, what happens to Francesco has something to do with a demographic phenomenon known as 'marriage squeeze' (something like matrimonial squeeze), which in Spain is a particularly acute squeeze.

The phenomenon is responsible for this perception that all girls are caught, which especially affects the generation we are referring to (but not only her, later ones will have it even worse).

The causes: the dramatic drop in the birth rate that occurred between the mid-1970s and the mid-1990s combined with the fact that in Spain about 106 men are born for every 100 women.

Both of these factors mean that the number of women available for a relationship is significantly less than that of men.

And as fewer and fewer are born, there are fewer and fewer women younger than one.


But no, that is definitely not what happens to Francesco, who at no time refers to the number of women available, but simply to the difficulty of finding the ones that are and... fit.

«I would like to have a partner.

But it's difficult.

When you're in your early twenties someone crosses your path and you say 'well, let's see what happens', you don't project anything.

But at my age you ask yourself: 'Can this go anywhere?

Is it worth investing my emotions in it?'

I don't want to settle for one person and look the other way.

I want to think that I have everything I want, and that I want everything I have.

This does not mean that I am a model or a Nobel Prize winner, but rather that the whole of what the other person is makes me click.

And that is difficult for it to happen and it also has to happen in two directions ».

Do we demand too much from love?

In her essay 'The End of Love' (Seix Barral), the Argentinian

Tamara Tenenbaum

carries out an exquisite dissection of the changes that have taken place in our society, our heads and our bodies that seem to have turned upside down aspects that we thought were inalterable such as Couple relationships.

In the realm of serial monogamy (because today we are monogamous in successive partners), he explains, we go from one relationship to another in search of an ideal and also, from frustration to frustration, since "there is no union that saves us from the precarious condition of life and human relations.

(...) That tranquility with which we dream, that illusion of security, is a fantasy».

Francesco could have a long talk with Tamara Tenenbaum and they would surely agree on many things.

Because at the time of self-analysis, our protagonist is aware that there is a fault between reality and expectations, and that this fault may be in him.

“Of course I question myself.

The one who is in charge of my life should be me and here is something that is not working.

Perhaps Tenenbaum would tell Francesco that, as a citizen of the 21st century, his love ambitions are fearless: «We want equal and honest bonds... We also want to fall in love, we want to fuck and we want to be loved;

we want stability and we want adrenaline, the lifeboat and the surf all at the same time.”

To which Francesco would no doubt reply that he absolutely does not believe that “happiness lies at the end of the rainbow of the couple.

I think that each one should contribute to the couple their own happiness, without that it cannot work... Apart from the fact that later the couple contributes more to you, of course».

The new laws of seduction

So, with his happiness in tow, Francesco embarks on the long and winding path of finding a partner, which today has its usual starting point in contact apps.

And not precisely because the 'love seekers' are lazy.

According to data provided by


specifically, half of thirtysomethings contemplate the use of a 'dating' app because "meeting someone in a public place is more difficult than in previous times".

Nor is the app Francesco's favorite formula, more akin to traditional live seduction [although he clarifies that he hits applications hard, "without any shame"]: "That moment when you have to launch yourself and maybe they reject you.

I think one of the things that apps take away is actually the fear of rejection.

It can always happen to you that you arrive at the appointment and they say 'oh, no, see you later'.

But it is a different rejection.

Apps take away the leap into the void ».


How have they become a way of finding a partner that 80% of Spanish singles have ever used (according to Inner Circle)?

“When I was in my twenties I hung out with my friends a lot, and there was a huge flow of new people showing up in your life.

That made it easy to meet people who might be interesting.

But today... Parties at friends' houses, for example, are already part of mythology.

They do not exist.

Because I don't put 20 people in my house to destroy it, but come on..., not even sedated.

So those parties become gatherings at friends' houses.

You know them all, they're adorable, but they're your friends and their partners, your friends and their partners.

And I know my friends and my friends' friends very well and the chances of a friend of a friend showing up to be the woman of your life... are reduced », she explains.

your friends and their partners.

And I know my friends and my friends' friends very well and the chances of a friend of a friend showing up to be the woman of your life... are reduced », she explains.

your friends and their partners.

And I know my friends and my friends' friends very well and the chances of a friend of a friend showing up to be the woman of your life... are reduced », she explains.

Back on the dating app comes the stories that don't pan out.

Francesco estimates that over five years there have been only six women he has met digitally with whom the click he is looking for could have taken place.

But not.

Of the disappointments, we do not speak.

Or if.

«There are things that I see and think 'we're not going anywhere here'.

For the physicist, for the intelligence, the people of zero culture -the misspellings are hard because of what they imply- or the ideas.

This is a true story: 'Since I get pretty and invest in it, the man pays me everything'.

Another: 'I am feminine, not a feminist'.

There it goes.

In the 21st century”.

And these are lines, like that of politics, practically impassable.

Politics, religion... and children

That Francesco is not willing to establish a relationship with someone of a specific political ideology is not exclusive to Francesco.

There are multiple surveys, conducted throughout the West, that show that ideology is a determining factor when we talk about love.

A study carried out by the US universities of Rice and Nebraska-Lincoln, published in 'The Journal of Politics' and which analyzed 5,000 couples, concluded that "for long-term relationships, people place more emphasis on the political ideas of their partner, their religion or their social activity than in their coincidences in terms of personality or psychology.

And the sons?

Do they also create a barrier effect?

If Spanish women enter the maternal emergency at 30 (we have the rare honor of being the European country with the highest proportion of pregnant women over 35: 37.3%, when the European average is 20.8%) , and although Francesco assures that he has already entered the crisis of his 40s, becoming a father is not one of his great priorities.

Or yes, but not at any price: «I would like to have children, in fact being able to start a family is something that worries me, but for me wanting to have children is wanting to have them with someone specific.

What weighs more is not the son, it is the person with whom I have him.

The data that Meetic manages say that at 30 you have more certainty than before in what you are looking for: "It is less about physical perfection and more about sharing interests."

Francesco partially agrees.

«All the debate that there is about whether in the applications you only look at the physique seems to me to be the most hypocritical;

I have never seen anyone flirting in a bar who says: 'I'm going for the ugliest one who has surely read many philosophy books'.

No, you go to the one that attracts you.

In any case, he affirms, in the end what you are looking for is that everything attracts you, «the physical, the mind and the spirit, that the three things work».

Can you look for clues of that in the apps?

Francesco thinks so.

For him, a Tinder photo provides a lot of information if we know how to look at it:

"What do people think is the best image of themselves?

Why did you choose this photo and not another?

That's what gives you the real information.

You don't have to look at the image, but the choice of the image.

And that is superficial?

No, that's people as they are."

Tenenbaum says that "the subversive power of desire, its physical and metaphysical relationship with freedom, lies in its unpredictability."

Perhaps, I think, it is that lack of unpredictability, to which Francesco somehow alluded when he talked about how apps eliminate the "jump into the void" of live seduction, is playing against snatched love stories, those that kidnap you without being able to remedy it.

Perhaps Tinder's lifeline is giving us too much room to think and analyze everything in the ocean of our minds.

Who knows.


Cristina is 34 years old, she is Andalusian and lives in Madrid, where she has what we could call her operations center.

And this, because Cristina spends her life traveling, crossing the country from end to end -«I just came from Hungary, in a few days I'm going to Badajoz, and then to Huelva»-, as a Real Estate Manager in a company for the looking for premises that will become new stores.

She is a specialist in expansions, a seeker in a big way and methodical, professionally, and also personally.

In her LinkedIn profile she describes herself as enthusiastic, flexible and creative, passionate about challenges and ambitious (she doesn't say this on LinkedIn, she says this to me).

She is independent, brave, attractive, communicative and friendly.

And she doesn't have a partner.

She though she would like.

She is part of 64.8% of Spanish singles (the range between 30 and 44 years old),

In addition to spending little time in Madrid due to her travels (by car, driving herself, "nobody knows how many hours I spend alone," she tells me), Cristina doesn't go out much at night (where, moreover, every time she she practices the game of seduction less), so dating websites are her usual way of looking for a partner, an ecosystem where, like her, 36% of Spaniards have already been baptized.

Another feature that characterizes Cristina is that of being super analytical.

I know it, after chatting for more than two hours with her, but before me her psychologist knows it, who usually recommends that she focus on the now and stop projecting herself in the long term.

When talking about his past relationships -one of long duration, 10 years, before turning 25, many fleeting flings that were not intended to be more than that, two recent ones that were suspected of being marathons but remained for different reasons in the short distance-, I don't he only describes them, but questions them about the causes that lit their fuse and the jugs of cold water that cooled them.

Cristina interrogates the past and she also questions herself, her motivations, her goals, what she is doing right and what wrong.

And also, of course,

Men who distrust women 'of childbearing age'

"This is a common topic of conversation in my environment, among friends," he says.

“It seems as if there is a kind of suspicion of men who are in their 30s towards those of their age, and it may be related to the fact that they think that we are thinking about having children (and the truth is that sometimes it is So).

That does not happen with a girl of 20 and neither with an older one... I think that for men the urgency of paternity comes later, when they are already over 40».

If we follow Cristina, men in their thirties would shy away from women in their thirties.

And these, for their part, would have ceased to feel for older men the curiosity of yesteryear.

«Sometimes I consider going out with men in their 40s. But then you see some photos, men so damaged, with little hair, and you say: 'Why would I be with a person like that, when I can be with a younger one?'» .

And it is that the old axiom that men, when they reach a certain age, abandon themselves, should not be so old, after all.

"In his arrogance, the man demands to be loved just as he is and refuses even to control the development of the most regrettable distortions of the human body, which might offend his wife's aesthetic sensibilities,"

Germaine Greer wrote.

in 'La mujer eunuco' (Debolsillo) in 1970. It is clear that many have not yet turned the page.

Despite everything, Cristina has tried.

Try quarantine, we say.

«I met a couple of times with a 40-year-old. He was a real Peter Pan, much more childish than me».

Come on, no.

Although the number of non-formal couples in Spain has increased exponentially in recent decades, simply for guidance it is interesting to note that the average age for marriage is 37.2 years in their case and 34, 9 in their case.

So we can extrapolate without fear of being wrong that the decade of the 30s is the one in which you more and better perceive that your environment is increasingly made up of couples, married or not;

by couples, moreover, who are beginning to have children And if you are not in that box, like it or not, it affects you (to begin with, because your human ecosystem changes).

So it is logical that there is, says Cristina, a certain sense of urgency to form a couple and have children in the segment of women her age, an urgency that can end up disembarking in ports as diverse as egg freezing or keeping the first one crosses into your life through Tinder.

"I know girls whose partner is the first or second person they met that way," she says.

"Or cases of pregnancy three months after dating someone, against all common sense."

It is not your case.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

«I would like to be a mother, but I don't know if it will be feasible or not.

My work, my family that lives far away, is not that easy, and I don't feel like having a child alone.

Maybe it will fit in the future, maybe it won't and if it does, nothing will happen (my mother says that children are overrated).

Love yes, but on a slow fire

Cristina's fits perfectly into the style baptized by biological anthropologist

Helen Fisher

as 'slow love'.

According to Fisher, the millennials, whose romantic behaviors she has studied for many years, have rescued the value of the decision of marriage and commitment.

Ella's concept of slow love refers to how young people relate today: they go out less, have less sex and marry much later than any other generation.

That Cristina's last relationship crashed was closely related to the fact that she and her partner were, in fact, at two very different speeds through life.

«He wanted more, and he wanted it faster, he was clear that he wanted to buy a flat now, get married now, have children now, that we go live in his city... He was very demanding, and we had only been dating for a few months.

He complained that he seldom saw me and asked me what I was going to do with my job in the future, when we had children... And I felt like I was drowning, and the conflict began».

Alone with our expectations

Say the experts who participated in the study 'Intimacy management in the information and knowledge society.

Couples and breakups in today's Spain' (GESTIM-BBVA-2018), that in our country couples break up today fundamentally because of lack of love, one of the key factors "related to the importance of emotional and individual factors prevailing in society current".

And they add: «In an increasingly emotional society, feeling loved, accompanied, and satisfied is essential in the daily balance process of negotiating life as a couple».

They also explain that it is mostly women who initiate the breakup.

And that the predisposition to re-pairing is not only high among people who have already passed their first youth, but it is on the rise.

Four out of 10 Spaniards declared in the SigmaDos survey carried out by Yo Dona that they did not find what they were looking for because nobody met their expectations, especially women (45.3%).

"I think it weighs against me to have had such a good long-term relationship that inevitably later you aspire to something similar," confirms Cristina.

To something similar and even more, which is, in your case, someone with an acceptable cultural level ("who has an education or who has another but, please, do not make spelling mistakes"), with whom you share concerns ("for learning, for traveling..."), with a sense of humor ("something that my last couples haven't had, and that is now a priority for me: joy son, joy..."), who shares their political ideas ("Madrid is not making it easy for me")... A person who looks like her:

who has studied, who is working, who is independent.


And he can't stand "relationships that are like roller coasters, full of anger and reconciliation."

And the sex?


And at the same time, a stumbling block.

Because, he says, "it can happen that the person you like on a sexual level is not the most suitable for your relationship."

Saving this last hurdle (which after all may or may not appear) is going to be that the psychologist

Justin Lehmiller

was right when he wrote 'Tell Me What You Want' a few years ago.

According to him, we tend to feel attracted to people who look like us because of something hidden in our subconscious, that little bag of surprises.

In general, he wrote, "what is familiar to us tends to be what we like and are attracted to, even if we are not fully aware of it."

It seems that Cristina does.


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